One of the Nation's Most Prominent Organizations Adds Substance and Color to Women's Voices

This weekend, the YWCA is hosting an All-Women Town Meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio to discuss and strategize about a wide range of issues from jobs to the economy to healthcare to civil rights. The event, whose honorary chair is Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will also serve as a forum to release the findings of survey tilted "What Women Want." The goal of the survey was to find out the major concerns and priorities of women in this country.

"We will use the invaluable information obtained from the survey to help us delineate long term and effective solutions for the future in key areas such as employment, healthcare and racial justice," says incoming CEO Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron, the YWCA's second African-American CEO. Dr. Richardson-Heron also points out that the organization will continue to work to influence public policy, also a goal of this weekend's conference with its proximity to the election.

What Women Fear

More power to the YW! Considering they are a household name and serve more than 2 million people in the U.S. each year, they can definitely wield some power. As I look at the survey results, however, I am struck by the fact that regardless of race, political party, age, or education, the majority of survey participants have the three major concerns:

  • Social Security being there when they retire
  • Affordable health insurance
  • The disappearance of the middle class

While these concerns are universal, when you dig deeper into the survey, you see why they have taken on new meaning for women over the past few years. 41 percent of the participants have been the primary breadwinner in their home in the last four years. African-American women were particularly worried about the economy because they are more likely to have experienced hour, wage, or tip reductions over the past few years. Women also report hardships ranging from postponing medical care to losing a job or falling behind in rent or mortgage.

Scared Straight

When you look at women's major concerns: Social Security, health insurance and the disappearance of the middle class, it is crystal clear that a large part of our economic and mental well-being will be tied to who controls the reins in Washington and their visions. It is crystal clear how important it is for all of us to participate in this election and get out and vote for what we believe in.

On a micro level, however, women are feeling more financial pressure than ever and they're scared. When we're afraid, we don't always make the best financial choices. There is a lot more to money than dollars and cents. I urge you to do a little 'introspection' and find out what's really going on in your financial behavior and to create a plan.

Set Goals

When I speak to people about their goals, I generally hear things like "I want to save more money," "I want to spend less." These ambitions are vague and rarely accompanied by a plan. Goals need to be specific: "I want to save $1,000 by April to take my child on vacation." "I want to save $10,000 over the next year to start a business." To help clarify your goals, take a moment and imagine what your ideal life looks like.

  • How are you spending your time?
  • What are you spending your money on?
  • Where are you?
  • How are you making a difference?

What Knocks You Off Course?

The reasons we spend money on things that are not in line with our goals are complicated. We must recognize these factors and come up with a plan to stand up to them. Pressures to live like our peers, even factors like our gender and ethnicity all play a role in our attitudes about money and choices.

Think about the messages you tell yourself about:

  • Saving
  • Spending
  • Debt
  • Investing
How would those messages change if you were achieving your goals? What changes would you make to your financial behavior?

A Financial Plan

Financial plans are about empowerment, not deprivation.

  • Identify spending you can reallocate towards your goals
  • Ask a friend to help you stay on track
  • List your income and all of your expenses and create a budget!

Being Who We Need to Be

A big shout out to the YW for using its power to influence and help all women create an environment in which we can thrive. I am also confident that women will do what they know how to do: Whatever it takes to rise to the challenge and be the economic leaders our families and country need us to be at this time.

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